Op Ed: A Day in the Life of City Park

Joe Weeg
The sun rises.

Okay. Here I am in Denver. That would be me pulling hard on the thin air after coming from the gently rolling hills of Iowa to visit my son and daughter-in-law. Let’s see, I’ve tried every type of coffee shop. Wonderful. I’ve eaten all sorts of hot and spicy foods. A league of their own. I’ve spent a day up in the mountains. How can it be warm while walking in a foot of snow? And now I have a day free. What to do?

How about City Park?

8 a.m. The Canadian geese fly low and flat across the still icy pond. A perfect formation. Their large wings beat with a slow percussive thump, like the air compressor at the auto garage. They turn and circle and talk loudly to each other. Amazing. But I see the mess of goose poop that the few walkers and runners are dancing around. This is one of those dog/cat or cow/bird videos of mixed species cohabitation. I'll bet this is a relationship still under negotiations.
9 a.m. A decision is made by someone. The geese circle one more time and begin their noisy descent into the pond. Wheels down. Flaps turned vertical. Safety light flashing. Lower, lower, lower...a gentle plop. And they immediately preen their wings as if they never left.

I find a bench. Perforated metal already hot from the sun, a breeze coming off the water now blowing over the metal plate in the concrete at the foot of the bench. “In memory of . . .”

10 a.m. The early-morning runners and bikers finish their Very Serious business. Moms appear, walking baby strollers — or jogging with lifelines attached to three-wheeled contraptions. Ponytails seem to be the fashion. Eyes forward. Ears budded up. Sun shining down. There will be no dilly-dallying today.

They all ignore me, a single old man sitting in the park. I get it. I would ignore me, too. A public bench in the big city can be the repository of many an unsavory character. Isn’t that what our parents warned as they put newspapers down on the suspect benches before our innocent behinds could become contaminated?

Of course, I smile at everyone. Why not? I already have a contaminated behind.

Noon. The geese leave as the lunchtime crowd appears. Phones are everywhere. Lunch is not a time to be disconnected. That conversation that waited all morning can happen at last. “Last night’s party was amazing.” “Bill did what at dinner?” “My mother called again, can you believe it?” “Why aren’t these pants fitting better?” “At last those shoes are on sale.” “Is that a good investment?” “Did she really say that?” “Did he really do that?”

I totally understand wanting to connect with others, although it is a little odd to witness all these people walking and talking alone. A new form of isolation, perhaps. But today I belong to the Disconnected. With no phone in hand, I am left to wander City Park on real time. But rest assured, I will pick up my iPhone at the end of the day; then I, too, can leave the ranks of the disconnected for the isolation of the connected. Great.

1 p.m. The sun shines hot. The ice on the pond begins to break off and drift just below the surface. Isn’t that how the Titanic went down? The hidden iceberg? Fortunately, tragedy will be limited to that unsuspecting goose that hits the ice like a snowboarder and skids right up to the land. Perhaps that will be the latest thing at the Winter Olympics — goose-boarding.

3 p.m. A faint roar echoes across the park. A lion’s roar. It comes from the zoo...hopefully not closer.

I can’t resist a visit.

Wow. There are lions and hippos and rhinoceroses and elephants and tigers. Goodness. But look at those seals. Pushing, shoving, hugging, barking. Clearly teenagers out of control and having the time of their lives. I can hear my mom yelling from the kitchen, “Now, don’t get wet!”

5 p.m. Believe it or not, time to head home. Back to the interior of the park I go. The night shadows are already stretching out from the base of the trees, filling in all the snow-flattened brown grass with black ink. I dodge the goose poop through the deepening darkness, anxious to get home.

Oops, I feel a soft squish under foot.

And the sun sets.

Joe Weeg is a retired criminal prosecutor reincarnated as a freelance writer and columnist. Email him at [email protected].

Westword occasionally publishes essays and op eds on matters of interest to Denver. If you have one that you think would work well here, send it to [email protected]
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